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PT Cruiser

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

IF YOU WANT A DINGHY-TOWABLE CAR that lets you get around without being noticed, this isn’t the one for you. The Chrysler PT Cruiser is arguably the most exciting, innovative new car to come along in years, and it stands out from the crowd. The PT Cruiser is clearly aimed at those who remember the glory days of automobiles, back when cars truly had personalities and the casual observer could tell the difference between brands at a single glance. Truly, the PT Cruiser doesn’t look like anything else on the road today. Best of all, Chrysler has approved the PT for four-down dinghy towing when equipped with the standard-equipment five-speed manual transmission.

The towing-preparation process is easy: The transmission is placed in neutral, the ignition key is used to unlock the steering wheel, and the car is ready to go. Despite its cute appearance and sporty image, there’s a surprising level of versatility and common-sense practicality built into the PT. The four-door car can seat four full-size adults in fine comfort, even in the contoured 60/40 split backseat, and there’s more than enough headroom all around. There’s a large cargo area aft of the backseat, and the rear seats are easily removable to create even more cargo space.

Alternatively, the aft seat portions can be folded forward to add more room without full
seat removal. The rear liftgate allows for fast, painless access to the area, as well. When
was the last time you saw a door handle with a round button that’s pushed with the thumb to open the door? That’s standard on the PT, as is the way-too-cool front-end styling. A brace of classic-style gauges combines with simple climate and vehicle controls in the
uncluttered dashboard area. There’s even a nostalgic 8-ball-style gear-shift knob that
brought back memories of the old high-school-vintage street racer from our past. A
2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine is standard, and the word is out that future models
will be offered with a V-6. The four-cylinder engine is rated at 150 hp and 162 lb-ft of
torque, so it’s not a barn burner, but the PT manages just fine on the road. Performance is
aided by the standard five-speed manual transmission, but a four-speed automatic with
overdrive is an option for those who don’t plan to tow four-down. The manual transmission
is smooth-operating and feels precise and definitive in selecting shift gates.

Overall, the PT’s drivetrain delivers crisp performance. Forget about underhood service access. You can reach the radiator coolant, engine oil, brake- and clutch-fluid openings, but getting to anything serious requires plenty of parts removal and gymnastics. It’s a tight fit.
McPherson struts and coil springs up front, plus coil-sprung trailing arms out back, make
for a smooth, well-controlled ride. Anti- sway bars front and back help with flat
cornering, and although the PT isn’t strictly a sports car, it’s fun and satisfying to
drive. Cost is an exciting aspect of the PT Cruiser. The base model featured here has a
suggested retail price of just $15,540, and its Customer Preferred Package 27G option
group, plus four-wheel anti-lock brakes and AM/FM/cassette/CD stereo boosted the total to a very reasonable $20,010, as tested. It will be awhile before anyone can actually buy a PT
for its sticker price, as many dealers are gouging customers for whatever they can get.
Once the fervor settles down, the price will become more reasonable. If just another ho-hum sport-utility vehicle or compact car sounds boring as a dinghy vehicle, saunter on over to your Chrysler showroom and check out the PT Cruiser. It could easily provide an extra shot of dinghy-towing and driving fun. Article by: Jeff Johnston

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